Moscow is home to Russia’s gigantic government apparatus and the headquarters of its largest business companies. It is a sprawling metropolis that contains a growing number of new residents. The current issue of Pro et Contra looks at Moscow as a social and physical space.
Moscow as Physical and Social Space
Moscow as a Rentier City
Any traditional attempts to solve the problems of Moscow agglomeration—such as developing transportation infrastructure, urban planning, or territorial expansion—will prove ineffective while the over-centralized management system is in place. The roadmap for developing Moscow agglomeration should be linked to institutional changes in the entire country. The city should be developed by capitalizing on the advantages of agglomeration effect rather than by continuously exploiting status rent that reaches its highest levels in the over-centralized management system.
Moscow Agglomeration and the “New Moscow”
Alla Makhrova, Tatiana Nefyodova, and Andrey Treyvish
There has clearly been a sharp change in the development of Moscow agglomeration. Whether the change turns out to be successful or unsuccessful, realistic or once again utopian, sustained or ephemeral, harmful or helpful for Russia at large is still too early to say. As the previous efforts to develop the capital indicate, the transformational process lasts no less than 20 to 25 years. New urban planning projects that alter both the city limits and the entire system of capital agglomeration may be completed in this time span.
The Moscow Archipelago
While political pluralism already exists in Moscow, it is yet to translate into dialogue; political life in the capital has not become more democratic. In the foreseeable future, there will be no return to the times when social modernization (or counter-modernization) was imposed from the top, but the times when civic values can be successfully transmitted from the bottom have not yet come either. Therefore, the city’s future development is unlikely to be determined entirely by popular trends or powerful political forces; it will instead be shaped by temporary alliances built on compromises and mutual concessions.
Celebrating Positive Solidarity
The 2011-2012 protests painted a portrait of a city as a particular type of human society. These events forced people to intensely appreciate the symbolic value of Moscow city space and feel especially connected to one another. They had a chance to realize that they belong to an important and precious entity—the city. However, they viewed the city as the nation’s capital and themselves as the integral part of this nation. They knew full well that Moscow is Russia. Thus, the protest slogans were not Moscow-based but appealed to a wide range of problems the entire country faces.
Internal Boundaries in the Space of Flows
It is extremely important to see Moscow as a city of streams—as a set of flowing currents rather than a collection of stationary points. We must examine the city through this lens—not because it “corresponds to the spirit of the age,” and not because we live in Zygmunt Bauman’s “liquid modernity” (although we do), but because this perspective will provide us with a new understanding of social structures in modern Russia and shed some light on the anthropology of people living in the unsettling reality of the post-Soviet space.
Government Interference: An Institutional Trap
The government has fallen noticeably behind the urban middle class in terms of development, but this state of affairs is perfectly satisfactory for a large section of the population, as well as various interest groups that extract revenue from the current situation. In this context, the modernization of the economy is impossible without modernizing the government, which is becoming more archaic with each passing year. The responsibilities of the government toward society and business are not firmly established (they are not defined by contract). This leads to a loss of trust and the defenselessness of business and the broader population in the face of the government machine.
Derealization of the Past: Functions of the Stalin Myth
Stalin has been recently gaining recognition as a great national leader. However, this does not mean that Stalin’s personality cult is being restored or that the nation is worshiping a charismatic leader, as often happens in totalitarian societies. The Stalin myth reveals an ineradicable national (collective) inferiority complex, infantile lack of responsibility and the adolescent need for the demonstration of force. The rationale for this need can only be found in the past which cannot be replicated. While forgetting about the price the country paid for the Stalin years, Russians are trying to hold on to the permanently disappearing symbols of national glory.
The Risks of Ignoring Strategic Insolvency
For half a century, the United States was a dominant global power which identified challenging core goals and tasks—deterring military adventurism, building political-military alliances, erecting mutually-beneficial institutions of trade—but to which Washington could apply established models and techniques. U.S. leadership and power becomes much more problematic in a world of complex problems which generate no broad agreement and which subject themselves to no clear solutions.
Ivan Krastev, Ilya Zaslavskiy, Alexey Miller, Alexey Makarkin